We’re big on regular black coffee, but it’s nice to be able to add some diversity to the daily brew from time to time. Sometimes that means brewing iced coffee or cold brew. Other times that means making creative coffee drinks, like cold brew soda. But there’s another powerful way to add a layer of variety: frothed milk.
Hot, foamy milk is what turns a shot of espresso into a cappuccino or latte. It’s creamy, sweet, and adds some texture to your otherwise normal brew. And you can make frothed milk in your french press—it’s so simple.
In this quick guide, I’ll show you…
- The difference between frothed and steamed milk
- How to make frothed milk in your french press
- A few examples of how you can use the frothed milk
Let’s jump in!
Frothed VS Steamed Milk: What’s The Difference?
Many websites use these two terms interchangeably, but as a coffee pro and former barista, I can assure you: there is a very real difference—and it’s worth learning about.
Here’s what the processes have in common: they both aim to give the milk a foamy layer that can complement the coffee’s flavor and texture. They both do this by injecting air particles in-between the milk’s protein molecules.
This works best with hot milk, because the protein molecules unfold and more easily ‘trap’ air as they cool down and curl back up. That being said, frothing cold milk does work for iced drinks—it just won’t be as creamy.
It’s also easier to do with 2% or whole milk, because there are more proteins and fats in the milk, increasing the creaminess of the foam.
Now let’s take a deeper look at the differences:
- Steaming milk is what a barista does with an espresso machine. He/she holds a milk pitcher up to a steam wand and injects crazy hot water vapor into the milk, enabling the baristas to create a very fine and precise foam that’s great for making latte art. Learning to control this process is very difficult and takes weeks of daily practice to make basic art.
- Frothing milk is less precise, but more approachable. Rather than using an expensive machine to create a fine, velvety foam using carefully controlled steam, frothing is more about using any tool you can find to froth the milk. This can be a french press, a blender, or even a mason jar. The end result is tasty and foamy, but not as precise or great for art.
So, basically, steaming is the more difficult way that baristas go, but frothing is far more approachable for home brewers who don’t want to put down a load of money on an espresso machine with a steam wand.
The Easy Guide To Frothing Milk In Your French Press
This process is sooo simple and easy. In fact, I think it’s the most effective and easiest way to make frothed milk at home. Here’s what you need:
- A way to heat that milk
- A french press
Seriously. It’s that easy.
Let’s take a look at the process step-by-step.
Step 1: If you have a standard size french press, fill a mug ¾ full with cold milk. If you have a small 3-cup press, only fill the mug ½ up with milk.
Step 2: Microwave the milk for 35-45 seconds. Alternatively, you can heat the milk on the stove on low-medium heat, stirring constantly. The microwave’s easier.
Step 3: Carefully pour the hot milk into your french press and attach the plunger/lid.
Step 4: Rapidly raise and plunge the fine mesh filter of the french press to force air particles into the milk’s proteins and fats. Do this for 10-15 seconds, or until the foam has added 50% or so to the milk’s total volume.
Step 5: Take off the french press lid, then pour or scoop out the frothed milk into your drink of choice.
It can take a few times of doing this to find out exactly how much milk you need to use. If you accidentally froth too much milk, just drink it or pour it into oatmeal. You’ll get better at producing less waste as you get more practice.
3 Ways You Can Use Your Frothed Milk
There are dozens of drinks you can make with your frothed milk, but we’ll show you three of the more basic applications that most people will want to try out.
- Cafe au Lait — This French drink is simple: black coffee (the fuller-flavored the batter) and frothed milk. Instead of pouring cold milk into your coffee, try this instead. It’s creamier, sweeter, and gives the top layer of the coffee a small amount of foamy goodness.
- Stovetop Espresso Drinks — If you use a moka pot or some other brewer that makes concentrated, espresso-like coffee, you can use your frothed milk to make drinks you’d find at your local cafe. Top your stovetop espresso with a big dollop of foam for a cappuccino or a few ounces of hot liquid milk and a small bit of foam for a latte.
- Summer-y Iced Drinks — Top your cold brew coffee with a small bit of cold-frothed milk to give it a foamy surface, smoother flavor, and creamier body. You can also add a hint of foam to creative coffee drinks, like the High Plains Tonic.
What’s your favorite way to use frothed milk at home? Drop a comment below with your favorite recipes and drinks!
While frothing isn’t quite as precise or refined as steaming, it’s an effective and simple way to give yourself the pleasures of foamy milk at home without breaking the bank.
And, if you’re starting out with specialty-grade, freshly roasted beans, you’ll find that the milk can enhance each coffee a little differently. You can stay stocked with stellar beans that are roasted the same day they’re shipped via our Coffee Club. Check it out for yourself!